Olympic Flame Lit Amid Brief Protest

Torch lit in grand style at Olympia
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2008 6:44 AM CDT
A demonstrator carrying a black flag with handcuffs used to symbolize the five Olympics rings, runs behind Liu Qi, the president of Beijing's Olympics Organizing Committee during the ceremony.    (AP Photo/ERT Pool via APTN)
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(Newser) – The Olympic flame was lit this morning in Greece, in a ceremony briefly interrupted by human rights protesters. As the Chinese Communist Party secretary—also the head of the Beijing Olympics—spoke, three demonstrators evaded massive security to run onto the field at the stadium in Ancient Olympia. One managed to unfurl a black banner depicting the Olympic rings as handcuffs before they were detained, the AP reports.

“If the Olympic flame is sacred, human rights are even more so,” said the Paris-based group, Reporters Without Borders, in a statement. The incident wasn't seen by Chinese television audiences; instead broadcasts cut away to a prerecorded scene. The ceremony continued with an actress dressed as a high priestess lighting the torch, using convex mirrors to reflect the sun's rays, and handing it off to the relay's first athlete. A poll published today showed that 50% of the French want President Nicolas Sarkozy to skip opening ceremonies.